Synod Interventions of 16th General Congregation
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VATICAN CITY, OCT. 16, 2008 (Zenit.org).- Here are summaries of the interventions given Wednesday morning at the sixteenth general congregation of the world Synod of Bishops, which is under way in the Vatican through Oct. 26. The theme of the assembly is on "The Word of God in the Life and Mission of the Church."
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-- H. Em. Card. Angelo BAGNASCO, Archbishop of Genoa, President of the Episcopal Conference (ITALY)
1) I would like in the first place to thank the Lord for the experience of grace that is the Synod: in this assembly we see the ever-young face of the Risen One, the true hope of the world. The Church is aware it possesses a great joy it cannot contain. This is why at the heart of dialogue, in whatever social or cultural, communal or personal context, we find the shining nucleus of the mission.
2) We cannot forget that the meeting of man with Christ, the Word Incarnate, and with “the Word of God, whether written or handed on” (DV 10), is always the meeting between two freedoms, that of God and that of the single person. Even Jesus, the Messenger and Message, has not always been welcomed!
Faced with secularism, we have to ask ourselves how to improve the proclamation, better know the cultures and contexts, but without ever forgetting the decisive drama of personal freedom, and knowing that the ways of the Lord are infinite. It is always necessary that everyone freely takes on the challenge of the Word that they read.
3) Without excluding organic occasions, it seems to me it would be opportune to use simple small methods: these are more practicable in a context, at least in that of the West, that is caught up in a compulsive rhythm of life that usually do not facilitate occasions for taking stock and committed study. A number of suggestions have been made that I agree with: attention to homilies, the spread of the Bible, simple and flexible aids, small groups.
4) As for the formation of a thought-out and knowledgeable faith, capable of giving reason to our hope, (cf. 1 P), it seems opportune to me to recall that if it is necessary to follow the documented, prayed and shared road of the knowledge of the written Word of God, it is equally necessary to take the road of reason. Sacred Scripture is crossed not only by supernatural truths but also by those natural ones that assume, confirm and lead to a conclusion.
The need and urgency to maintain the Scripture, Tradition and Magisterium united returns (DV 10), so that the believer can better understand the great questions of birth and death, family and freedom, love and natural law, euthanasia, fertilization...and know how to present them to non-believers as well, for whom the Bible is valid only for the force of its arguments. When the Church speaks of these themes it is not meddling, it is not going outside of its evangelizing mission, but it is within its mission. At the same time, it serves cultures and societies so that they may become more human. This is exactly the spirit and scope of the “Cultural Project” the CEI has been carrying out since 1995 in Italy.
[Original text: Italian]
-- H. Em. Card. Giovanni LAJOLO, President of the Governatorate of Vatican City (VATICAN CITY)
The question arises on how to bring the Word of God to three categories of persons in a convincing manner:
-- The illiterate and those who, even though they can read, do not. These can be easily tempted by absurd beliefs and superstitions. The way to personally reach them should be studied, either through audio-visual means easily understood and wide diffusion.
-- The persons of a certain cultural level, sometimes very high, that are shaken by the pages of the Bible, where they feel violated by the order or the consent of God, in their fundamental human rights. For these, further evolution on the concept of inspiration to the Holy Scripture should be made.
-- The believers in the Old Testament, these will not be benefitted by proposing the achievement of the prophecies recognizable as post fidem. They need to be shown the Christian meaning of the prophecies realized in Jesus the Messiah, recognizable ante fidem.
[Original text: Italian]
-- H.E. Most. Rev. Raymond Leo BURKE, Archbishop Emeritus of Saint Louis, Prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura (VATICAN CITY)
1. Regarding no. 58 of the Instrumentum laboris, the Holy Scriptures teach that God has written His law upon every human heart. The divine natural law, inscribed upon the human heart, can be discovered by reason but is clearly announced to all through the inspired Word of God (cf. Rom 2:15).
2. In the context of pervasive materialism, relativism and radical individualism, it is especially urgent that the Scriptural teaching on the natural moral law be presented as the common heritage of every man.
3. Also urgently needed is the proclamation of the divinely inspired teaching on the discipline which disposes man to do what is good and to avoid what is evil. Holy Scripture teaches us that the observance of the law is not the height of man' s self-expression, but it is the irreplaceable foundation of the highest expressions of human goodness.
4. Proclaiming the Scriptural teaching on the place of discipline in the lives of individuals and of society is a challenge in a culture which is either antinomian or has made law a tool in the hands of the most powerful.
5. Regarding the relationship of the Word of God and law, it is important to underline the service of canon law in the Church, by which the life of Christ can grow and develop in the whole Church. In his Apostolic Constitution Sacrae disciplinae leges, Pope John Paul II, describing the service of Canon Law in the Church, referred to "that long heritage of law, which is contained in the books of the Old and New Testament and from which the whole juridical and legislative tradition of the Church takes its origin, as from its first source."
6. In the Church, as in society, the understanding of the law has been obscured and, in some cases, lost, leading to gravely harmful effects, for example, the widespread disregard of liturgical laws and the failure to follow the procedural laws by which the faithful vindicate their rights and ecclesiastical delicts are duly sanctioned.
7. The deeper appreciation of the service of law in the Church, through the study of the Word of God, not only helps the Church to understand and treasure the gift of its canonical discipline for the attainment of its divine mission, but also assists society, in general, to understand and treasure the irreplaceable service of law for the attainment of the common good.
[Original text: English]
-- H. Em. Card. Joseph ZEN ZE-KIUN, S.D.B., Bishop of Hong Kong (CHINA)
I would like to focus for a moment on the Word of God as Creator of the beauty of the universe and of human beings, gifted with intelligence and heart and, therefore, capable of dialogue with its Creator.
This aspect of the Word is present in Instrumentum laboris, but coming from a country where the Revealed Word strictly speaking has not reached many and where, on the other hand there is an abundance of semina Verbi in popular cultural wisdom, I would like to come back to the question and to express some personal wishes.
My first wish is that this aspect of the Word be sufficiently developed in the final text and that some pertinent recommendations are made by the Assembly.
In Hong Kong the 6 main religious work together to preserve the precious heritage of Chinese wisdom.
The Catholic Church in China has always found a good ally in the Confucian doctrine.
If, moved by charity, we can manage to instill in the young generation the traditional Chinese virtues, we shall have helped them to take a great leap forward towards sainthood.
We can see, unfortunately, what happens when these virtues are lacking: a frightening decline in the sacred values of life, marriage, the family; brazen corruption, a silencing of the voice of conscience, whereby, with the aim of making easy money, it even becomes possible to taint milk and harm the health of defenseless children or even take their lives.
A second point: it is true that this Word as Creator of the Universe and the human conscience is still a Word whose aim is salvation, which is supernatural.
Accepting this, though, I still think it is possible to recommend that, following the example of the same divine patience, great space be granted to this preparatory Word of God and that we do not fall into the temptation of hurrying. I will provide two examples.
a) I heard Professor Yang, the Nobel prize winner, say, “I am not a believer, but I won’t hide the fact that in two instances I feel touched by the mystery: the first is when I found myself faced with a scientific discovery: it is as though we have been caught looking at something we don’t have the right to. The second is when I become aware of the destructive force of technology: I begin to think that we are using forces we should not.”
I must confess it did not occur to me to ask the professor when he will take the next step. Rather I would have told him he was close to the Kingdom of God.
b) The second episode. A conscientious and patriotic journalist is unjustly condemned for spying. As a young man, when he was a student in a Protestant college, he had refused to read the Bible in public because he was an atheist, but then in the long silence of internment the Gospel had found its way into his heart.
A few days ago we met at a luncheon. Well, I hope you won’t be scandalized if I tell you that on that occasion I complimented him for the time he’d refused to read the Bible.
[Original text: Italian]
-- H.E. Most. Rev. Joseph OSEI-BONSU, Bishop of Konongo-Mampong (GHANA)
This intervention, made on behalf of the Ghana Catholic Bishops' Conference, examines the effectiveness of our preaching of the word of God in the light of paragraph 23 of the Instrumentum Laboris, which talks about the Parable of the Sower (Mk. 4:1-20).
It is argued that even though the Church in Ghana has made considerable progress since the seed of Catholicism firmly took root there in 1880, there are a few things in the lives of many Ghanaian and African Catholics that call into question the effectiveness of our preaching. First, some waver in the faith in the face of adversity, e.g. illness, childlessness, and go from church to church, looking for a solution to their problems. Converts from the African Traditional Religion sometimes fall back on the religion.
Secondly, some Catholics join the Pentecostal and charismatic churches, claiming that these churches address their needs better and teach the Bible better. Thirdly, a lot of the corruption, injustice and violation of human rights on the African continent is perpetrated by people who profess to be Christians, indeed, even Catholics.
In the light of all this, the following are proposed. First, in the interests of effective preaching, homiletics should be reviewed and considerably improved upon. Secondly, more attention should be given to the formation of the laity, especially the catechists, who are the pillars of the church in our outstations. Thirdly, the word that we preach should transform not only the spiritual but also the socio-economic and political life of our people. For this reason, where possible, a special apostolate to our politicians should be looked into. It is my conviction that this will help to produce "saintly politicians" who will respect the rights of the people. Our catechesis and preaching of the word should ensure that we do not end up with more tyrants and dictators in Africa!
[Original text: English]
-- H.E. Most. Rev. Paul CREMONA, O.P., Archbishop of Malta, President of the Episcopal Conference (MALTA)
I shall be speaking in the context of traditionally Catholic Countries like Malta. Whenever we speak of a new Evangelization, we find a stumbling-block. Many of our faithful still live in nostalgia of, and compare the present situation, with the model of the Church that was present 30 to 40 years ago. Since the Catholic Church has not remained in a privileged position as it was then, they live in an atmosphere of shock when the Church, or its Pastors, are challenged. Many times they stand in fear of speaking openly before this, many times, hostile culture.
We need to go out of this traumatic experience to enter into a new evangelization. We have to help the faithful recognize that that kind of Church does not exist anymore, and it cannot be proposed again in this changed world. We cannot continue comparing our reality to that reality.
We have to propose a new model of being Church and the model which corresponds most to today's reality is the primitive Christian community as it is described in chapters 2 and 4 of the Acts of the Apostles, and brought to life in the other writings of the New Testament. We have to compare the Church today to, and shape it on, that community.
[Original text: English]
-- H.E. Most. Rev. Venant BACINONI, Bishop of Bururi (BURUNDI)
The Council Constitution “Dei Verbum” inspired great open-ness to the Word of God, and the most noticeable result, at least in my country (Burundi) was demonstrated in a more Biblical catechesis. However, for a country with over 65%Catholics, having the same language, after over a century of evangelization, there is a paradox in not having the entire Bible in the national language. Only the New Testament has been spread, as for the Old Testament, we only have the Sunday and weekday breviary. Can this lateness be explained by the traditional mistrust towards the Old Testament, which presents God as irascible and an inconstant, unfaithful and sinning humanity, often having scenes of violence, vengeance or duplicity?
Furthermore, just having come out of a long decade of instability and fratricidal violence (caused by the ruthless battle for power), our populations have been decimated and tormented by great economic poverty, emphasized by chronic hunger due to the climactic changes, unchecked erosion and a primitive agriculture; they are also facing financial difficulties for their children’s schooling and access to health care, they must therefore face a daily struggle for survival.
This situation does not allow approaching the Word of God with serenity and fruitfulness. Many do not believe in the power of the Word of God to change their lives, with some turning towards sects, with the danger of being quickly disappointed. In the formation of future priests, the Bible should not be considered only as a course among others, but as the living Word of God addressed to each individual, inviting them to dialogue and to the Covenant; the Lectio divina, personal contact with the Word, should be more widely practiced.
As a priority, great efforts must be made to realize the translation of the Bible, making it available to all. To have a Bible is the right of all Christian people and it is a duty of the pastors to make access to the nourishment of the Word of God possible, to encounter Jesus the Savior there. Also, there is an urgent need to form the laity, without forgetting the consecrated persons, to a personal and community encounter with the Word of God, source of conversion, of service, of reconciliation and of building of durable peace.
[Original text: French]
-- H.E. Most. Rev. Joviano DE LIMA JÚNIOR, S.S.S., Archbishop of Ribeirão Preto (BRAZIL)
God speaks in the heart and in the lives of every person, man or woman, child, adolescent or youth, adult or elderly, of all religious or philosophical cultures and traditions, all social classes, all joyous or painful circumstances of our personal and social life. God speaks under the particular circumstances and realities of the Brazilian people, of the continent of Latin America and the Caribbean... He proposes life or death to us, blessing or curse. The choice is ours to make (Cf. Dt 30:19).
We Christians, members of the living Body of Christ, risen, we listen to the Word of God, we pay attention to the whispers of the Spirit, attentive to the ‘signs of the times’, attentive to the Paschal Mystery occurring through events. This is why we open the Book of Holy Scriptures, scrutinizing the self-revelation of God and the realization of His Plan of Salvation, throughout the history of the cosmos, throughout human history, up to today. We try to understand the challenge of our mission today, in each reality that weaves our personal and social life.
The Bible is always present in the small base communities. In the moments of community reading, a very rich exchange between the life of the people of God today and yesterday is established: the concern for survival (hunger, illness, housing, all sorts of needs), testing community organizations, commitment to social battles and political participation... faith in the living God especially, which allows resistance to despair.
Many people -- children, young persons and adults -- open the Holy Scripture in their study and prayer groups, in their meetings dealing with pastoral activities and for liturgical celebrations. Thus, we can see the appearance of missionary communities in families, universities, districts and even in study and work groups with the wish to live and proclaim the Gospel.
At the Table of the Word, the People of God find wisdom and nourishment for the daily battles. The liturgy being impregnated by the Word, liturgical celebrations are the privileged moments for the proclamation of the Holy Scriptures, to hear the living Word that is Jesus and Who is manifested to the assembly during the celebration of the Eucharist and the other sacraments, the liturgy of the hours and of divine offices, the sacramentals, the expressions of popular piety.
[Original text: French]
-- H.E. Most. Rev. Rayappu JOSEPH, Bishop of Mannar (SRI LANKA)
Lectio Divina: I wish to speak about the nutritive and formative value of Lectio Divina explained in no. 38 of the Instrumentum laboris, in the context of the experience of our country with particular reference to my diocese in Sri Lanka. The word Lectio Divina is mentioned more than 28 times in the Instrumentum Laboris, and in the life of Particular churches, it is mentioned as second only to the Eucharistic celebration as a privileged locus of experiencing the Word of God. As in the Eucharist, the supreme prayer of the Church, so in Lectio Divina, Word of God is inseparably connected to prayer.
The Word of God and prayer are two sides of a single act. Instrumentum Laboris No. 41 says "An authentic spirituality of the Word demands ‘that prayer should accompany the reading of Sacred Scripture, so that God and man may talk together; for ‘we speak to Him when we pray; we hear Him when we read the divine sayings’". The disciples of the Lord asked Him to teach them to pray because they knew that the source of His life and mission was His life of prayer where he spoke to the Father and the Father spoke to Him.
Lectio Divina in my country: The Catholic Bishops' Conference of Sri Lanka, in its effort to go back to the sources to renew the Church, committed itself 14 years ago to the formation of Small Christian Communities (SCC) through the Asian Integral Pastoral Approach (AsIPA) as its pastoral priority. In this approach the ancient practice of Lectio Divina is spread out into seven moments of encounter with the Bible.
Lectio Divina in my diocese: My Diocese of Mannar in the North of Sri Lanka is 35% Catholic, the rest being our Hindu and Muslim brethren. At the very beginning of Christianity in this region, 600 neophytes witnessed to their faith with their blood in 1544. They are known as "the martyrs of Mannar". Their followers in faith, the people today live in deep faith and the diocese is rich in priestly and religious vocations, the fruits of the faith of their fathers. However, a quarter century old ethnic war with its destruction of lives and properties, mass scale displacements etc. have been leading our people into a loss of the sense of belonging as the crisis has turned into a matter of the survival of the fittest. Fundamentalist sects were making inroads to fish in troubled waters.
[Original text: English]
-- H.E. Most. Rev. Augustin TRAORÉ, Bishop of Ségou (MALI)
The Christians of Mali are a small minority from a numeric point of view, but they are appreciated and respected because of the testimony of the Gospel of Jesus Christ that they give.
The quality of the witness of the life of the Catholic and Protestant Christians in Mali inspire great admiration from their Muslim brothers and sisters who often love to say that the management of importnat things should always be given to the Christians because the Gospel they proclaim brings justice and peace.
The coherence in the witness is to promote an evermore productive collaboration between the Catholic and the Protestant Christian communities.
The Secretariat of the Biblical Apostolate of the Conference of Bishops of Mali decided, since its creation, to promote ecumenical dialogue in Mali. Thus, they work closely with the Universal Biblical Alliance in Mali, in a more direct way with the National Bureau of the Biblical Alliance in Mali in a spirit of ecumenism.
The good relations between the members of the Biblical Secretariat and the Biblical Alliance in Mali allowed for a productive collaboration in the domains of formation of Bible translators, of the diffusion of the Bible, Literacy.
The Word of God, all being the children of God, is a powerful means of communication between men of different religions. The Synod on the Word of God will certainly favor a fruitful inter-religious dialogue, beginning with a better knowledge of this Word. Inter-religious dialogue presupposes a good knowledge of the Word of God which is also dialogue and which favors the conditions for a more fruitful dialogue between the different confessions.
[Original text: French]
-- H.E. Most. Rev. Lucjan AVGUSTINI, Bishop of Sapë (ALBANIA)
The history of the Church among the Albanian people shows us that God makes sure that His word bears plentiful fruit.
Albanian Catholics had the same experience as the Hebrews in Babylon, where the Word of God maintained its identity. During the Communist regime, when every religious practice was prohibited, the memory of the Word of God preserved the faith of Albanian Catholics.
While Vatican Council II, with its encyclicals and documents, among them Dei Verbum, brought about many changes in the universal Church, the Church in Albania was forced to keep silent.
We may say that the example of the bishops, priests and laity who were shot or imprisoned for having professed their faith in the Word Incarnate encouraged all the faithful to realize the Word of God in their lives. By their acts, they taught the people faithfulness, love, and forgiveness of enemies.
In liturgical prayer, there has been a great deal of progress in increasing the value of Sacred Scripture as the starting point of each act of worship in Spirit and Truth and as the strength which unites the community which prays.
The people listen to the Word of God with a feeling of faith, yet they still hunger and thirst. We are not able to satisfy this hunger and thirst. We still face many difficulties. There is a great need to reprint Sacred Scripture.
[Original text: Italian]
-- H. Em. Card. Antonio CAÑIZARES LLOVERA, Archbishop of Toledo (SPAIN)
The intervention refers to catechesis, as one aspect of the ministry of the Word. The essential and fundamental role of catechesis should be underlined in the transmission of the Word of God, whose peculiarity lies in being a period of teaching and maturity, of a living reflection on the ministry of Christ, of integral initiation -- enlivening, ordered and systematic -- to the Revelation that God Himself made to man in Jesus Christ, neither isolated from life nor artificially juxtaposed to it, and safe-guarded in the profound memory of the living Tradition of the Church. Catechesis introduces, starts listening and welcomes the Word and the teachings of the Apostles in the liturgy, in the evangelical moral life conforming to charity and to prayer.
Without catechesis the majority of Christians would not be able to adapt and express the Gospel in their lives, nor to act in a missionary and apostolic way, nor to successfully face up to the current spiritual and cultural tendencies. Only by starting with a serious, authentic and renewed catechesis, is the Church able to forcefully explain the range of the elements and functions of its evangelical mission.
It is necessary that catechesis as the evangelizing work of the Church, finds its foundation in the nature of Christian revelation and the living Tradition of the Church, as expressed in the Constitution Dei Verbum of Vatican Council II.
When catechesis places itself in this perspective, it inspires the adoration and together with it, the admiration and the wonder in the presence of God. With the strength of its witness, it speaks of God to give glory to Him. This is the source of praise, the action of grace and supplication. Here initiation is rooted in the listening and the obedience to the Word of God, to prayer and liturgy. Also from this arises a life corresponding to God’s will. When catechesis is based on this, the desire for God is born in the heart of man, the search for Him, contemplation of His Face, which is the Word made flesh, Jesus Christ, the joyous experience of being with Him, He who is Love, contemplated in His Incarnated Word and to live in accordance with Him in love and walking in hope.
[Original text: Spanish]
-- H.E. Most. Rev. Claudio Maria CELLI, Titular Archbishop of Civitanova, President of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications (VATICAN CITY)
I would like to begin my intervention by referring to paragraph 53 of the Instrumentum laboris which speaks of the “methods” and “new forms of language and communication” in proclaiming the Word of God.
We are living through a period of profound changes in the world of communications. Experts frequently use the term digital revolution to indicate the extraordinary developments in communications technology which we have witnessed over the last twenty years. It would be a mistake, however, to consider these changes as purely technological, because they have also revolutionized the culture of communication. They have changed the way in which people communicate, the way people form groups and communities, the way people know the world and the way people commit themselves to political or business organizations.
As a community of believers dedicated to making the Good News of the Gospel of Jesus Christ known to all, the Church faces the challenge of reflecting on how to communicate its message in the context of this new and emerging culture of communication. We have usually considered the new means and communications technology as instruments for broadcasting the Word - Evangelii Nuntiandi defines the new media as a “modern and effective version of the pulpit.” Today’s challenge is to understand that the new technologies are not just instruments of communication, but are also profoundly influencing the very culture of communication.
Digital communication has transformed the way people use the media. Whereas in the past we tended to consider readers, listeners and viewers of the media as passive spectators of centrally produced content, it is clear that today we must consider the public as more selective and interactive, with access to a far vaster range of media. The logic of communications has been radically changed -- the focus on the media themselves has been substituted by a greater concentration on the public, which is evermore autonomous and deliberative in its use of the media.
We have always, rightly, been very careful about the content of our teaching; today we must be more careful about our public, or rather our multiple publics, so that we may understand their concerns and their questions . We need to understand better and to take into account the contexts and the environments in which they encounter the Word of God. The development of the internet as an interactive means of communication whose users seek to play an active role rather than just being passive consumers, calls upon us to develop more explicit forms of dialogue for teaching and presentation.
[Original text: Italian]
-- H.E. Most. Rev. Fragkiskos PAPAMANÓLIS, O.F.M. Cap., Bishop of Syros, Administrator to Milos (GREECE)
I would like to add a thought to no. 54 where the Word of God is spoken of as an ecumenical bond. I live in Greece where we Catholics are a minority in the midst of a great majority made up of our Orthodox brothers. It is natural therefore for me to touch on this problem.
In Instrumentum Laboris I searched for the answer to a question that I often hear asked by our Orthodox brothers or regularly read in the papers. They say to me: “You Catholics, how can you justify the structures of your Church as an institution if you confront them with the Word of God?” And, following the conversation, I see that they are referring to the diplomatic apparatus with all the ramifications that stem from it, that the Catholic Church makes extensive use of.
I am aware of the need for institutions and of the good that can be done through diplomacy. However, it is also true that they should be re-examined and verified in the light of the Word of God, because the end does not justify the means.
Studying history we come across emergency decisions in the life of the Church and structural ways of behaving that could be justified because of that particular historical moment, but I ask myself if those decisions, remaining within the structures of the Church will continue to indicate the path of the Church forever and ever? Especially when such structures do not stand up in the light of theological principles?
For the Catholic Church, the ecumenical commitment is the main commitment of the third millennium. An commitment that cannot be limited to an exchange of invitations, visits and gifts, or all those gestures that express our desire to create unity. Desire is not enough. We have to be willing to sacrifice laws and structures to prepare for the blessed day we Christians will be united.
The blessed day of the Union of Christians, in fact, will not be “an unconditional meeting” with our brothers, but a fusion of two pieces of gold to achieve a new entity in unity. The period of the ecumenical journey will only be authentic for the Churches if it is a journey of purification of the structures.
In this journey, the Word of God is the instrument that has to guide each of the Churches since it is the only element where we can meet and face each other.
[Original text: Italian]
-- H.E. Most. Rev. Felix TOPPO, S.I., Bishop of Jamshedpur (INDIA)
Despite bitter historical reality of the divisions of the Church ecumenism has made considerable progress towards the unity of the Churches since the Second Vatican Council.
Our divisions have caused wounds to the Mystical Body of Christ. Our divisions contradict Christ's will and his teaching of love, humility, forgiveness. These divisions are a serious sin and a scandal before the world.
That despite divisions we are working for unity is a sign of hope. Though battles against one another have ended, unity of all Christians remains still distant.
The opening lines of the ''Decree of Ecumenism" of the Council underscore the "promotion of the restoration of unity among all Christians" as one of the chief concerns of the Council (cf. UR l; cf. L.G. 15). So too Pope, John Paul II, (Ut Unum Sint, no 61 and Pope Benedict XVI (IL. 54) have stressed the primary importance of the full, visible union of all the disciples of Jesus.
We confess our faith in one God, one Baptism, one Message, one Faith, one Hope, one Love, one sacrifice calling us to undivided unity. We remember the prayer of Jesus to the Father for unity (Jn. 17:21).
1. True ecumenism calls us to acquire spiritual attitudes of love and humility towards all Christians
2. All Christians are to be encouraged to participate in a collective practice of Lectio Divina.
3. We should guard ourselves against dilution of the Truth and false ecumenism.
4. We should strengthen the spiritual dynamics of unity, both within and between particular churches.
5. The Churches of East and the West need to agree upon a common day for the celebration of Easter.
[Original text: English]
-- H.E. Most. Rev. Joaquim FERREIRA LOPES, O.F.M. Cap., Bishop of Viana (ANGOLA)
1. The African cultures, to whom we proclaim the Good News, are old cultures that must be known deeply. At the same time, they have a very accentuated symbolic penchant that must be respected and used in the proper way.
Our African cultures could be aptly called Cultures of the word in an existential and at the same time symbolic sense. In fact, on one hand, the human word, as such, has extraordinary merit; on the other hand, the Word of God has exceptional merit. The Word of God extends beyond any meaning attributed to the word in whatever context it is found.
Because of this, the Word of God, the Bible, is worshiped in our Liturgical Assemblies in such a way that a sort of enthronement has been introduced slowly and progressively in the celebration of the Eucharist.
For Africans, the Word is alive, it is Someone who comes to the encounter with the community united by the Holy Spirit in the name of the Lord. With a great sense of creativity, the community needs other forms of reading on the ritual, gestural and symbolic levels.
We must study everything that touches upon the problem of inculturation to avoid certain past errors in the process of today’s New Evangelization, errors that omit considering the aspects that led to an evangelization that did not deeply touch the remaining culture on the peripherical and superficial level.
2. One must give thanks to the catechists, men and women, to their indomitable courage who, having received the faith and in remaining faithful, have managed to maintain the living communities at the cost of their own lives, during the past decades. There was great holiness and martyrium in these communities.
Now, we can see the Bible in the hands of the faithful and present in their homes. The Gospel is the new proclamation for the poor, even if there obviously is still a lot of work to be done.
[Original text: French]
-- Rev. Father Kieran O'REILLY, S.M.A., Superior General of the Society of African Mission
A characteristic feature at the beginning of the letters of St. Paul is his giving thanks to God for the labor and work of those to whom he is writing. In the Letter to the Philippians he writes:
"I thank God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all, making my prayer with joy, thankful for your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now" (1:3-5).
I would like to address the agents of the Word, "partners in the gospel".
a) The Catechists, religious and lay, male and female.
b). The Bishops, Priests and Deacons.
c). A third group are those who labor quietly and diligently - Biblical Exegetes.
It is important that this Synod take the opportunity to acknowledge the substantial progress that has been made over the past 50 years and the role played by the above.
1. Prayerful use of the Bible combined with authentic research
A major challenge to be addressed is to combine the prayerful use of the Bible with serious historical and critical research. The task may be described as combining passionate faith commitment with impeccable scholarship.
2 How can the Priest- Agents of Evangelisation become more familiar with and more "at home" with the text of the Scriptures? It is essential that adequate programmes of Ongoing formation, especially in scripture, be put in place.
3. The ministry of “Justice and Compassion” within the Church could be more forthrightly presented. The Church on all continents need men and women in the forefront of the work of evangelization, who witness to the compassionate and loving Christ.
4. The call to inculturate or incarnate the Word of God, in Africa is still at an early stage. The task of inculturation is ongoing and while great advances have been made the full dissemination of the Word there has still a journey to travel.
[Original text: English]
-- H.E. Most. Rev. Daniel CARO BORDA, Bishop of Soacha (COLOMBIA)
In the Gospels we meet the “History of a soul”.
The foundation of the Gospels is the Words and Acts of Jesus, enriched by the professions of Apostolic faith and by the different traditions of the first communities. This does not hinder encountering in the Gospels “the living spirituality of Jesus”; His spiritual path. The Spiritual path that is called “The Kingdom of God”. A Kingdom that He made reality in Himself and made it visible to the Twelve and to others. A Kingdom that exists inside all of us and there can be encountered and built. The study and the assiduous reading of the Gospel, brought us to know the soul of Jesus, not only His words. This is to encounter the history of a soul anxious to build, - ad intra - the true Kingdom, and -- ad extra -- to share it and to make it known. It is to enter in His living spiritual path starting from the penitential baptism, to the glorious Resurrection and Ascension.
Through the Word, encountering Jesus of Nazareth, who invites and accompanies us in constructing the Kingdom of God as He does,... This is the heart of discipleship.
[Original text: Spanish]
-- H. Em. Card. Giovanni Battista RE, Prefect of the Congregation for Bishops (VATICAN CITY)
1. It is the duty of the Bishop to be herald of the Word of God; authentic doctor, that is, invested with the authority of Christ, who illustrates and transmits it; teacher who guards and defends it faithfully; witness who proclaims it even with the example of his life (cf. Lumen Gentium).
In the exercise of the munus docendi, the Bishop must teach the faithful the word drawn from Sacred Scripture, from Tradition, from the Magisterium, from the liturgy of the Church, taking care that all of Christian revelation is presented entirely and faithfully. In the same way, the Word of God must be the point of reference for the munus sanctificandi and the munus regendi as well.
A pastor must profoundly feel the primary responsibility to spread the faith in and love for the Word: he must continuously study and reflect upon how to better achieve this task. By means of an accurate pastoral work, the Bishop must guide his priests and faithful to listen to, to love, and to internalize the Word of God thus becoming more familiar with it and grasping its deep meaning, to attain salvation, through “obedience to the faith” (Rm 1:5).
The Bishop must work towards making the Word of God influential and pertinent to culture, trying to enlighten with the Word of God anything new appearing over the horizon.
2. Moreover, the responsibility of the Bishop is to do all that he can to ensure that the Word of God is maintained living, entire, and fruitful. The Bishop has the obligation to defend the Word of God from anything that might compromise its purity and integrity. He must have the courage to intervene with clarity and authority, against any arbitrary interpretation or hypothesis.
Then, one must learn to read the Holy Scripture not like any other book, but for what it truly is, the Word of God, speaking with God, that is to say learning to pray starting with the heard or read text, then meditated and studied.
3. To accomplish his task correctly, the Bishop must first of all nourish himself on the Word of God. Each of us Bishops must place the Word of God at the center of our own lives, such that it becomes a true reality, the true foundation of our experience of faith and all of our pastoral activity. The Word of God must permeate our entire way of seeing, thinking, and acting, and become the support and comfort of our existence.
During the rite of our episcopal ordination, a particularly meaningful moment was when the book of the Gospels was opened above our head. Our ministry was placed under the Word of God, with the duty to announce it, to proclaim it, to live it with faithfulness and to defend it in its clarity.
The image of the open Gospel placed upon our head recalls the image of the roof of a house. The Word of God for the Bishops is the home we leave every morning to meet the flock entrusted to us and the home to which we return each evening. The Word of God is the secure roof under which we take shelter during the storms of life and the intimate place in which connections are drawn together, memories and feelings, as well as pastoral anxieties and concerns, to find in Christ restoration for the soul and the energy to face today’s problems and challenges.
[Original text: Italian]
-- B. D.nus Baselios Cleemis THOTTUNKAL, Archbishop Major of Trivandrum of Syro-Malankar Church, President of the Synod of the Syro-Malankarensi Church (INDIA)
The ecclesial identity of the Syro - Malankara Catholic Major Archiepiscopal Church which I represent has to be seen from three important dimensions. The Apostolic Malankara Church received the ancient West Syrian liturgical patrimony, got rooted deeply in the Indian spiritual soil and enriched by the full communion and universality of the Catholic Church. This is our blessing and vocation.
One of the primary exigencies of the Malankara Catholic Church is the Ecumenical imperative. Along with the prayer of Jesus (Jn 17/8) Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI inspires us in saying “unity in faith is to be achieved primarily as a response to listening to the word of God”.
The Malankara church is fortunate to have a liturgical tradition that is deeply rooted in the Word of God and it invites all to fashion their lives according to the word of God. The sacred liturgical traditions of ours allow themselves to be animated by the word of God.
Already at the beginning of the reunion movement, the Malankara Catholic Church had~ special emphasis on its mission ad gentes.
Our missionary exigency in the religiously and culturally pluralistic Indian context faces new challenges. Fundamentalism, underscoring the religious freedom etc. are some of them. The social and economic reservations given by the government are denied to the Dalit and backward communities as they become Christians. The recent attacks on Christians is a strong signal by the fundamentalist to the people of good will everywhere. We are grateful to the Holy See for its timely and open solidarity in such occasions.
[Original text: English]
-- H.E. Most. Rev. Joseph Albert SERRANO ANTÓN, I.E.M.E., Bishop of Hwange (ZIMBABWE)
The majority of people in Zimbabwe are non Christian. Ten per cent of the population are Catholics while another thirty per cent belong to other christian churches, mostly to pentecostal groups and to syncretist or african independent churches. Approximately sixty per cent of the population follow the traditional religion.
Among the Catholics, not all practise regularly their faith, the number of catholic families is still low -- it is frequent the case of families whose different members belong and practise their faith in different churches -- and we experience an exodus of Catholics who for different reasons like sickness, mixed marriages, friends, emotional needs, religious insatisfaction, financial problems, etc. join temporarily or for good other churches or religious groups. The present unstable socio-political and economic situation is affecting the life of the Church giving way to selfishness, and even to hatred and violence among members of the same parish because of their affiliation to opposed political parties.
Within this complex context, the mandate of the Lord, "Go out to the whole world, proclaim the Gospel to all creation", sounds actual an challenging to uso What to do? What is the Lord asking from us? How to present his Word in a relevant way in this present situation?
I would like to simply enumerate a few points that we consider essential for our proclamation of the Word.
1. Need of a solid biblical formation at all levels. We stress the need to instruct our laity.
2. The use of media and modern electronic technologies as tools for both learning the Word of God and proclaiming it. We should not forget and make more use of traditional ways of communication, still effective and valid, i.e. music, drama and dance.
3. The importance of small christian communities as a space where the Word of God is proclaimed, prayed and lived; a serious dedication to the cause of justice and peace and to the service of charity takes shape; mutual pardon and reconciliation "so much needed today" can take place; the Word of God becomes inculturated; the Church is experienced as a family, the family of God, and becomes self-supporting, self-ministering and self-propagating. The parish thus becomes more dynamic and is experienced as a community of communities or an extended family.
4. Need of Bibles as well as of simple but solid resources and aids in different languages that can help our people along their way of formation towards an ever-deeper personal encounter with Christ.
5. Need of houses of spirituality -- retreat houses -- where the Word of God can be met in prayer and silence.
6. We also need to give more support to the Catholic Biblical Federation in its effort and work for the implementation of the Dei Verbum Constitution.
[Original text: English]
-- H.E. Most. Rev. John Olorunfemi ONAIYEKAN, Archbishop of Abuja (NIGERIA)
1. The Vatican Council II, in its Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, Lumen Gentium n. 16 declares:
"But the plan of salvation also includes those who acknowledge the Creator, in the first place amongst whom are the Moslems: these profess to hold the faith of Abraham and together with us they adore the one, merciful God, mankind's judge on the last day".
The Instrumentis Laboris n. 56, the chapter on "Interreligious Dialogue" quotes a similar but more detailed passage from Vatican II, Nostra Aetate n. 3, a text that specifically draws attention to the fact that Muslims worship a "God ... who has also spoken to men". The purpose of my intervention is to appeal to this august assembly to pay more attention to the above serious declarations of Vatican II.
2. I come from Nigeria, a nation where Christian-Muslim relations has been a constant challenge. I am therefore aware that the reality on the ground in many places since the last 40 years often makes one wonder if the positive and open position of the Church is not being naïve. Is there any reciprocity in our efforts at good relations? Whatever we may say, dialogue with Islam is necessary, no matter how difficult it may be.
3. But it is not all bad news. There are positive signs of the times which I think we should not overlook. In recent times, there is a growing self-criticism within the Muslim world. Furthermore, three important recent events should merit our attention: a) the "Common Word" letter of the over 140 Muslim leaders of the world to Christian leaders, b) the visit of the King of Saudi Arabia to the Pope, and c) the conscious call and initiative from Muslim circles for dialogue with Christians at various levels. The Church has done well to welcome and encourage these gestures at the world level, whose impact we are already feeling at local levels.
4. In order that all these go beyond diplomatic postures, I believe that we need to intensify our theological reflection on Islam as a religion, along the lines indicated by Vatican II. In particular, and relevant to the theme of our synod, we might need to pursue what Nostra Aetate means by God speaking to Muslims.
5. To build a better world is part of the mission of the Church. To do this, we need to link hands with others with whom we share the same concerns. This is surely a pressing challenge for the two greatest religions on our planet
[Original text: English]
-- H.E. Most. Rev. Louis-Marie Ling MANGKHANEKHOUN, Vicar Apostolic of Paksé, Titular Bishop of Acque nuove di Proconsolare (LAOS)
The Word became flesh and He spoke about the project of God for mankind, but men killed him because He bothered them. In fact, he knew well that those men did not like him; this was while he freely decided, in accordance with God’s Will, to go towards that death. If the incarnated Word, the Creator and Savior of the world took so long to prepare himself for his mission, it is because he gave a very special importance to this preparation: 30 years of preparation, for 3 years of preaching, for 3 days of redemption and one night in the tomb, before the glorious resurrection.
For the apostle, he should be himself the witness to the Word of God. He should be the guarantee of the truth of what he says, of what he does, through his being a living and acting person, through his existence as a man of faith and a man of commitment, through his life and consecration, and why not through his life as bishop... In one word, he lives of the Word of God in his daily life as a bishop and this means being a visible witness, living and palpable of the Word of God, as much as a pastor of the people that the Word of God entrusted him. This incarnated Word of God is the Good Pastor Himself, in flesh and bones, it is the Good Pastor who gives his life for his sheep.
The Word of God in the life of the Church means, first and above all, to live the Word of God, in the silence of one’s private life, in his hidden life, personal and intimate, as the incarnated Word did and lived in 30 years.
The Word of God in the mission of the Church, is to be oneself the visible and palpable witness to the salvific love of the Word of God. Today’s world is tired of listening and hearing; but it is not tired of getting dazzled, of admiring and of getting marveled of his private life as a pastor.
Today’s world has a terrible hunger and thirst of the Word authentically lived by the bishops, by the priests; in one word by those called consecrated persons. Today’s world has a hunger and thirst of pastors who live of what they are and preach what they interiorly live.
[Original text: French]
-- H.E. Most. Rev. Jörg Michael PETERS, Titular Bishop of Fordongianus, Auxiliary Bishop of Trier (GERMANY)
“The Word of God, grace of communion” (IL no. 54 et seg.). On the possibilities and limits of collaboration on an ecumenical level.
1. It was a great common progress when about 30 years ago, the so-called “unified translation” appeared, by the Council of Evangelical Church and the German Episcopal Conference; that is to say a translation of the Holy Scripture published in collaboration. This text was soon taken into the liturgical texts for all German- speaking countries. Based on this common translation there have been and are in many places, groups of inter-parish Bible study circles with an ecumenical spirit.
Regretfully, the Bishops had to face the fact that, in a partial revision of this translation which has become necessary, a common action with the Council of the Evangelical Church has not been reached. If we, as Christians, are united in a dual form, through Baptism and the Word of God, this step is even more deplorable, because this is, faced with a world that has become indifferent or deaf, bearing witness to the Word (IL no. 55).
2. On a new beginning for Dialogue between Christians and Jews (IL no. 55)
We have already heard that the Hebrew interpretative tradition of the Bible is very useful even for a Christian understanding of the Bible. We are grateful that, in the past three years, there has been a promising new beginning in dialogue between representatives of the German Episcopal Conference, the Council of Evangelical Church and the Rabbis that work in our country. This could help heal, at least in part, the deep wounds of the Jewish communities and Hebrew traditions, that in the past were so alive and which were almost completely destroyed during National Socialism.
To conclude, a practical consideration concerning the choice of readings from the Old Testament according to the Ordo Lectionum Missae. The question of the choice and the order of the Old Testament pericope has a very important role, even if it is known that within this Synod the main problem stated cannot be answered.
[Original text: German]
-- H.E. Most. Rev. Giuseppe FRANZELLI, M.C.C.I., Bishop of Lira (UGANDA)
"What you have heard in secret proclaim it from the rooftops!" (Mt 10:27)
In many of our dioceses, the Church owns and runs diocesan bulletins or newspapers. Some have set up their own website. We often have a diocesan radio.
The question is, how do we use our radios - or the ones we can have access to - in order to spread the Word of God?
My appeal and proposal is twofold:
1. Let the Synod encourage the dioceses, especially those in the same region and using the same language, to share information and make available to the others the various radio programs and formats on the Word of God which have proved to be successful and popular. Little by little we shall build up a rich media library, a data bank, a common pool from which each diocese will be free to fish out, adapt and use whatever is most fitting its audience to introduce the Bible, Lectio Divina, reflections on the liturgical readings to various categories of listeners, children, youth, adults, families, etc.
2 Let the Catholic Bible Federation join hands with the Pontifical Commission for the Means of Social Communications to promote and support these initiatives by providing expertise, training, moral and financial support to make this possible.
[Original text: English]
-- H.E. Most. Rev. Pierre-André DUMAS, Bishop of Anse-à-Veau and Miragoâne (HAITI)
1. Already in his speech at the Congress on Dei Verbum, Pope Benedict said: “The Church should continuously renew and rejuvenate itself, and the Word of God, which never grows old and is never exhausted, is a privileged means of attaining this goal”.
2. In his introductory relatio, the Secretary General says: “Today’s Synod must help discover the Word of God as the source of renewal and rejuvenation for a Church perceived as a continuously dynamic and youthful Church” (Rel. Chap. V):
3. Therefore, if the Church inhabits the Word, the fundamental attitude of continuous conversion will be proper for it, rather implicit to it.
4. The urgent call for conversion that reaches His ears during all ages (Mk 1:15): “Repent and turn to God” (Ac 3:19) draws from the Word and must be consolidated with the Word as a founding and transversal reality that focuses the hermeneutic horizon on faithfulness to the vocation.
5. Therefore, before becoming the repository to guard, study, pray, explain and communicate, the word principally and first of all is a healing and purifying beginning: “And now I commend you to God and to the word of his grace that has power to build you up and to give you your inheritance among all the sanctified” (Ac 20:30-32).
6. Therefore, a Synod on the Word must tear away the veil that falls too often over old ideas, paradigms, past perspectives, our concepts of taboo, a style that is tiresome and burdensome, of a pastoral setting and planning based on the old system that tends to enchain the word.
7. At the same time, I hope that this program for conversion may become the quintessence of her mission and help her redefine His project as a process of growth and this same conversion.
8. Then, if the pastors could be the first to take up the path of conversion to God and to His Word of Love, then the Church will enter a New Pentecost of the Spirit to become evermore what is deep within her: the seed of unity, leaven of communion, seed of hope, irradiation, irradiation of love and leaven of the news of God in history.
[Original text: Italian]